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Foreward

Forbidden Fruit | Illegal Pesticides in the US Food Supply: Foreward

February 1, 1995

They're breaking the law. You're paying the price.

Fruit and vegetable growers in the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Canada and elsewhere are using pesticides that cannot be used under U.S. law on crops that end up on America's tables every day. Some of the pesticides, like the cancer-causing fungicide Captan, have been banned for use on certain crops by our Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because they pose a significant health risk. But those compounds are still showing up on scores of the very fruits and vegetables on which the EPA has refused or revoked legal use.

We don't know just how many foreign or domestic producers are breaking federal pesticide laws. Neither does the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency responsible for monitoring the food supply for pesticides. But as Forbidden Fruit documents for the first time, illegal pesticide use is as common as it is serious.

This study should give pause to anyone who has listened to the full-throated assault recently directed against the FDA by some congressional leaders, their backers in industry, and their lyricists in conservative think tanks. The most excitable FDA-bashers would eliminate the agency altogether, leaving it to the pharmaceutical, food, and medical device industries to police themselves on the safety and efficacy of their products.*

We've had our own complaints about the FDA over the years, chiefly over the inadequacies of its pesticide monitoring program. But the problem of illegal pesticide use lies not with the FDA, but with those who make their living growing and selling produce to the American public. In Forbidden Fruit, Susan Elderkin, Richard Wiles and Christopher Campbell advance a trust-but-verify strategy for catching illegal use of pesticides. As a policy pitch, it's not 100,000 more food cops on the street. It's individual responsibility meets right-to-know. Law-abiding, self-policing types in the food industry will welcome it. The lawbreakers will need more lawyers and a big ol' compost pile